KALISPELL – A new wildlife viewing area had a grand opening near Kalispell over the weekend.
The West Valley Wildlife Viewing Area is a unique project for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
One of the best places in the state to see Sandhill cranes is now a public viewing area thanks to a conservation easement and a unique venture by FWP.
“In the past, we have done a lot of public access easements for the right to get into hunt or fish — where this particular property the public access is just for wildlife viewing,” said FWP’s Chris Hammond. “So, this gives people an opportunity to see things they wouldn’t be able to see elsewhere in the state.”
The West Valley Wildlife Viewing Area is part of a larger conservation easement on farmland just a short distance away from box stores and subdivisions.
“The town is moving this way and fast, so it is really important to conserve special places in the valley and this is one of those special places,” said Laura Katzman with the Flathead Land Trust.
Not only does this project conserve quality farmland, but it provides a window to one of Montana’s magnificent birds.
“The nice thing about having the cranes here is that it is the bird you cannot ignore. When people come out here and see these things they go like ‘whoa’,” said Denny Olson with Flathead Audubon. “It’s like standing next to the rock band at a concert.”
The viewing area will allow people of all ages to connect with the outdoors.
“It’s an acclimation that nature and our connection with nature are going to make us happier, healthier and smarter — all three,” Olson said.
“And our kids, when they grow up in an outdoor situation, are also going to be happier, healthier and smarter and so we are lucky, we are really lucky to have it,” he added.
The best time to see Sandhill cranes at the viewing area is from August through October.
-Winston Greeley reporting for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks